Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Mummy guilt

They say that guilt is a useless emotion. It is basically the feeling of having done something we should not have done, or omitted to do something we should have done.

When you are a parent, guilt is ever present. Whether it is a message in your own mind and measuring yourself against a yardstick you created, or messages you see in the media, or underhanded comments from well meaning or otherwise persons.

I again reiterate that an instruction booklet would come in handy. I can guarantee that even with the instruction booklet, I’d find something to feel guilty about. 

I was brought up in a different country by very strict parents. My parents had both been raised to value education, and tertiary education at that above all else. Having both been born into families of blue collar workers, they both wanted us to have a degree, and this was to be the be all and end all in our lives. Without a degree, we would not only disappoint them, but would be impoverished failures of humans. 

I grew up believing that anyone without a degree was a sucker and a burden on humanity. Loser. 

As I grow older, observe and mature, I realise that nothing is ever black and white, and that times and places change situations. There are an infinite number of permutations and combinations of careers, and reasons to do one or the other. The number of factors which determine success, or even the definition of success, are endless. 

Success. Does it mean making money? Being happy? Making a difference in someone else’s life? Leaving a mark on those you love? 

I think we are all in charge of giving our lives the meaning we want them to have. We have that right. 

No one should ever dictate what we do with our lives. I think as parents we can make suggestions, provide opportunities for exploration, and then take our hands off. Completely off. 

I have constant feelings of guilt over the opportunities I could have provided, or over the generational trauma I exposed my children to. It comes down to what we have control over. Very little other than what we do every day. 

I have control over what time I get up, what I do with my time, how I behave, and how I drive my life forward. That’s it. Everything else is completely out of my control. What other people think, feel or do is not up to me. 

And that includes my children. They have absolute control over what they do. I can only provide support, whether it is practical, financial or emotional. But what they do from now on is up to them. Their circumstances are completely different to mine as I grew up. They are affluent people in a developed country. I did not have that luxury. And with those opportunities come other problems that I did not foresee. Being helped can be a hindrance. Letting go is a recurring  theme in my life. Allowing things to play out. Feelings to pass, weather to change, things happen as they will. 

I used to fight everything and try really hard to change things and influence what happened. I can’t. It has made me stressed and anxious, and at times completely overwhelmed me. I am opting to be more of an observer, watch and wait. 

In relationships, career, and every day life. 

I used to obsess over my weight. Watch it daily and then infinitely change things in order to alter it. Since I started just watching it, I have noted that sometimes it changes for no reason at all. Usually hormones. And nothing I do changes that. 

Nothing I did would have altered the children I got or the relationships I have ended up with. Of course I can make other choices for myself now. But back then, those choices were the right ones. I made them for myself at the time. And so they were right. 

There were probably people sitting back watching me fall over and disagree with those choices. But they were mine to make. 

So as I parent adult children, I watch and wait. I support, and learn to shut up. My opinions, wishes, hopes and dreams do not matter. 

I have done my dash. Everything from now on is their destiny to own. It is my responsibility to be present and supportive, provide my opinion when asked, and shut up the rest of the time. Because I want them to own their choices and be proud of them. I want them to achieve success on their own terms. 

I will work on my guilt in the meantime. It is a moot point. I cannot change what I have already done. It is done. 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Date with Heidi

 I came to Perth to visit my sister, and they have had to go into isolation as a covidy household has developed with my nephew starting the chain and my brother in law succumbing this morning. While my sister was still negative, we did a socially distanced meal- less n95 catch up last night. It was nice to see them and it was reasonably well timed, as my sister feels like crap and although is still testing negative, I am pretty sure it will not be long before she tests the dreaded positive.

I have never gone away by myself. 47 years old and never done it. I was trying to think of a time that I did and I couldn’t. I have always gone with a friend or for work. I have never taken a holiday by myself, for myself.

I have been very aware of why and I thought I’d share. I was scared. Scared of being stared at, scared of being alone, scared of having to do things on my own. Partly that is because I am a very social person, but also because for many years, I hated me. I couldn’t stand being alone with me. I would be consumed by darkness, self deprecation and hatred that would ooze into the silence like thick honey dripping through a small hole. I thought that the noise of that sort of silence would be deafening to my soul. I thought I would probably die.

So I have avoided doing things on my own. If I can spend the day at home with the dogs I will.

The dogs and cats have been my security blanket for a long time. A way to be alone without being alone. And this is the first time I am alone for leisure, without the dogs and without a friend or family member.

I have had to brush guilt away most of all. Guilt of enjoying myself “without a purpose”, as if being with me and entertaining me is a sin. I was abused. To those who know me this is not a huge revelation, but my needs and emotions were bothersome and annoying and inconvenient.

The purpose of this weekend is just to please me. I wanted to see my sister, I wanted to go for a walk this morning and go to spotlight and the markets. I wanted to eat bircher muesli at a quaint little Café full of hippies. I want to take me out to dinner and see a comedy show.

I have been practising being gregarious all day. I have chatted to dog owners at cafes and commented on their dogs or told their dogs how good they are. I have said hi to people and watched them react to me with warmth and friendliness. No disgust that I am daring speak to them. Weird.

There is no cushion, there is no shock absorber when it’s just you. You are naked and fully visible for all to judge and view. It’s like being thin for the first time in 45 years. Fully visible. Nowhere to hide.

And it is okay.

I am truly okay. More than OK. I’m funny, and friendly, and maybe even pretty. (a little bit, at a stretch).

This is so new to me. Thrilling. A new lease on life. Free of self criticism and sarcasm.  Grateful for my body that propelled me 8.5km around Fremantle today, seeing things, feeling things, tasting things.

Just being. I am so, so lucky.

Maybe it’s not the last time I will take Heidi out for the weekend.

Mummy guilt

They say that guilt is a useless emotion. It is basically the feeling of having done something we should not have done, or omitted to do som...